Posts filed under ‘Asset Allocation’

No Pain, No Gain

Long-term success is rarely achieved without some suffering. In other words, you are unlikely to enjoy gains without some pain. Last month was certainly painful for stock market investors. On the heels of concerns over the Russia-Ukraine war, Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, China-COVID lockdowns, inflation/supply chain disruptions, and a potential U.S. recession, the S&P 500 index declined -8.8% for the month, while the technology-heavy NASDAQ index fell -13.3%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average weakened by -4.9%.

For long-term stock investors who have reaped the massive +520% rewards from the March 2009 lows, they understand this gargantuan climb was not earned without some rocky times along the way. As you can see from the chart below, there have been no shortage of issues and events to worry about over the last 15 years (2007 – 2022):

  • 2008-2009: Financial Crisis
  • 2010: Flash Crash (electronic trading collapse)
  • 2011: Debt Ceiling – Eurozone Collapse
  • 2012: Greek Debt Crisis – Arab Spring (anti-government protests)
  • 2012: Presidential Elections – Sequestration (automatic spending cuts) – Cyprus Financial Crisis
  • 2013: Federal Reserve Taper Tantrum (threat of removing monetary policy accommodation)
  • 2014: Ebola Virus Outbreak
  • 2015: China Economic Slowdown
  • 2018: China Trade Tariffs – Federal Reserve Interest Rate Hikes
  • 2020: COVID-19 Global Pandemic – Recession
  • 2022: Russia-Ukraine War -Federal Reserve Interest Rate Hikes – Inflation/Supply Chain – Slowing China
Source: TradingView chart with Sidoxia notations

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that after the stock market eventually bottomed (S&P 500) around each of these events, one year later, stock prices rebounded on average approximately +32%, and prices moved even higher in the following two years. Suffice it to say, in most instances, patiently waiting and taking advantage of heightened volatility usually results in handsome rewards for investors over the long-run. As Albert Einstein stated, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.”

There have been plenty of false recession scares in the past, and this could prove to be the case again. Although I have noted some of the key headwinds the economy faces above, it is worth noting that current corporate profits remain at/near all-time record highs (see chart below) and the 3.6% unemployment rate effectively stands at/near generationally record low levels. What’s more, housing remains strong, and consumer balance sheets remain very healthy as a result of elevated savings rates that occurred during COVID.

Source: Ed Yardeni

The S&P 500 is already off -14% from its highest levels experienced at the beginning of the year. Although there are no clear signs of a looming recession presently, if history is a guide, much of the pessimism is likely already discounted in current stock prices. Stated differently, even if the economy were to suffer a garden-variety recession, we may already be closer to a bottom than the potential gains from a subsequent rebound. The 15-year chart shows that stock prices have become significantly more attractively valued in recent months.

Source: Ed Yardeni

Panic is rarely a profitable strategy, so now is probably not the best time to knee-jerk react to the price declines. Peter Lynch, arguably one of the greatest all-time investors (see Inside the Brain of an Investing Genius), said it best when he stated, “Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves.”

Market corrections are never comfortable, but successful, long-term investing comes with a price…no pain, no gain!

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (May 2, 2022). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

May 2, 2022 at 7:48 pm 11 comments

Insane Gain After Fed & Ukraine Pain

After a painful start to 2022, the stock market surged last month, with the S&P 500 index gaining a respectable +3.6%, while the technology-heavy NASDAQ index rose by +3.4%. With volatility on the rise, getting caught up in the emotions of the headlines can be challenging for some investors. At Sidoxia, we are determined to objectively stick to the facts and migrate investments to the areas of the market that provide the best risk-reward opportunities to our clients, based on their unique objectives and constraints. There certainly are some headwinds for investors to contend with, but for long-term investors, it’s also important to recognize the positive tailwinds and not miss the forest for the trees.

As I pointed out last month, we are coming off a heroic advance over the last three years (2019/2020/2021) with the S&P 500 soaring +90%. The hangover from COVID has created significant supply chain disruptions and widespread economic shortages. Adding the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the mix has been like pouring gasoline on the flames of inflation, especially when it comes to the energy and food sectors. As you can see from the CRB index below (a basket of 19 commodities ranging from aluminum to orange juice and live cattle to wheat), in recent years the index has been highly volatile in both directions, but is up +27% this year. Since the COVID-driven trough, prices have about tripled over the last two years, but that does not mean prices will fly to the moon forever.

Source: Trading Economics

Many traders have short-term memories. People forget that commodity prices approximately doubled after the 2008 Financial Crisis, only to experience a subsequent slow bleed over the next decade until prices were essentially chopped in half. As the saying goes, “price cures price.” In other words, as prices skyrocket, greedy capitalists and businesses then decide to take advantage of the high pricing environment by investing to produce more supply, which eventually leads to deflation. This supply expansion process takes time and will not happen overnight.

With gasoline prices exceeding $4/gallon nationally, and breaching $6/gallon in my Southern California backyard (see chart below), it should come as no surprise that oil companies are taking advantage of the lucrative environment by drilling for more oil.

Source: GasBuddy.com

The rising Baker Hughes drilling rig count below reflects the miracle of supply-demand economics operating in full force. As prices rise and accelerate during geopolitical shocks like we have experienced in Ukraine, naturally supply rises, which eventually depresses prices until an equilibrium is reached. Even our government is now attempting to increase supply by releasing up to 180 million barrels of oil from our country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (the largest release in the almost 50-year history of the reserve), while also pushing for penalties on those energy companies sitting on unused permits (i.e., not producing oil on leased oil land). High energy prices will most certainly become a hot-button political issue in the upcoming midterm elections.

Source: Trading Economics

Adding to investor anxiety, our Federal Reserve is embarking on an interest rate hiking cycle that is expected to take the targeted Federal Funds interest rate from effectively 0% to a range around 2.5% over the next couple of years. The Fed’s goal is to increase the cost of borrowing, thereby slowing down the economy and reducing inflation. On the surface this sounds scary, but do you remember what happened the last time the Fed tapped the interest rate brakes during 2015 – 2018? Despite the Fed raising interest rates from 0% to 2.5%, the stock market increased dramatically over that timeframe. The current Fed interest rate cycle may more closely resemble 1994 when the Fed aggressively hiked rates from 3% to 6%. Similar to now, back then stock prices swung wildly throughout the year to eventually finish the year flattish.

If Things Are So Bad, Why Are Prices Going Up?

In the face of such horrible and scary headlines, how can prices still go up? The short answer is that companies are making money hand over fist and the economy remains strong (3.6% unemployment rate; record 11.3m job openings3% forecasted growth in 2022 GDP) in a post-COVID recovery world, where consumers remain financially healthy and are now looking to spend their shelter-in-place savings on vacations, houses, and cars (all healthy industries).

Not only are corporate profits at record levels, they are also expected to grow at a healthy rate (+10% in 2022, +10% in 2023) after mind-boggling growth of +50% in 2021 (see chart below).

Source: Yardeni.com

Could the headwinds previously described cause prices to go lower? They certainly could, but valuations remain attractive given where interest rates currently stand. If interest rates rise dramatically, all else equal, then that will be challenging for all asset pricing. Moreover, discounting or forecasting future Russian military actions is a difficult chore as well, which could also potentially throw a curve ball at investors.

In the meantime, what are companies doing with this flood of growing cash? Well, besides combing the job boards in search of hiring a scarce number of qualified workers, investing in technology to improve productivity, and expanding geographically to grow revenues, companies are also returning gobs of cash to investors in the form of record, swelling dividends and share buybacks (see charts below).

Darling Dividends

The gift that keeps on giving. Dividends now amount to more than half a trillion dollars and they are still growing.

Source: Yardeni.com

Beautiful Buybacks



As you can see, the trajectory of buybacks are more volatile and discretionary than dividends, but record profits are driving more than $1 trillion in share buybacks on an annualized basis – not too shabby.

Source: Yardeni.com

Although there are plenty of reasons for investors to rationalize a run for the hills, there remains some extraordinarily strong fundamental tailwinds intact. In spite of the economic pain caused by Ukraine, the Fed, and inflation, there are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic. The strong economy, impressive profit growth, historically low interest rates (even though slowly rising), cash-rich corporations, and attractive valuations mean there is still ample room for future market gains.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (April 1, 2022). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

April 1, 2022 at 1:37 pm 3 comments

End of the World or Status Quo?

If you were the chief executive of a newspaper, television, or magazine company, what headline stories would you run to generate the most viewers and readers? Which subjects will you choose to make me impulsively grab a magazine in the grocery line, keep me glued to the television news, or suck me in to click-bait advertisements on the web? For example, what topics below would you select to grab the most attention?

·      Hurricane or Sunshine?

·      High Speed Car Chase or Cat Saved from Tree?

·      Bloody Murder or Baby’s Birthday?

·      Messy Divorce or Wedding Celebration?

·      Impeachment or Bipartisan Legislation

·      End of the World or Status Quo?

If you selected the first subject in each pair above, you would likely gain much more initial interest. In choosing a winning topic, the saying goes, “what bleeds, leads.” In other words, scary or controversial stories always grab more attention than feel-good or status quo narratives. And that is why the vast majority of media outlets are drawn to negativity, just as mosquitos are attracted to bug zappers. This phenomenon can be explained in part with the help of Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his partner Amos Tversky, who conducted research showing the pain from losses is more than twice as painful as are the pleasures experienced from gains (see chart below).

The significant volatility seen in the stock market recently from the Russian war/invasion of Ukraine is further evidence of how this fear dynamic can create short-term panics.

Although the stock market as measured by the S&P 500 index has gone gangbusters over the last three years, almost doubling in value (2019: +29%, 2020: +16%, 2021: +27%), the S&P 500 has hit an air pocket during the first couple months of 2022 (-8%), including down -3% in February. The year started with turbulence as investors became fearful of a Federal Reserve that is entering the beginning stages of interest rate hikes while cutting stimulative bond purchases. And then last month, the Russian-Ukrainian incursion made investors even more skittish. Like always, these geopolitical events tend to be short-lived once investors realize the impact turns out to be less meaningful than initially feared. As you can see below, the worst economic impact is forecasted to be felt by Russia (consensus on 2/24/22 of approximately a -1.0% hit to economic growth), more than twice as bad as the -0.2% to -0.4% knock to growth for the U.S., Europe, and the world (see chart below). The Russian hit will likely be worse after accelerated sanctions.

Source: The Financial Times (2/24/22)

As it relates to Ukraine, many Americans don’t even know where the country is located on a map. Ukraine accounts for about only 0.14% of total global GDP (i.e., a rounding error and less than 1% of total global economic activity). Russia, although larger than Ukraine, is still a relative small-fry and represents only about 3% of total global economic activity. If you live in Europe during the winter, you might be a little more concerned about Vladimir Putin’s recent activities because a lot of Europe’s energy (natural gas) is supplied by Russia through Ukraine. For example, Germany receives about half of its natural gas from Russia (see chart below).

Source: The Financial Times

Russia, on the other hand, is larger than Ukraine, but the red country is still a relative small-fry representing only about 3% of total global economic activity. When it comes to energy production however, Russia is more than a rounding error because the country accounts for about 11% of global energy production (#3 country globally behind the United States and Saudi Arabia). By taking all these factors into account, we can confidently state that Russia and Ukraine have a very low probability of solely pulling the global economy into recession.

If history repeats itself, this conflict will turn out to be another garden variety decline in the stock market and an opportunity to buy at a discount. It’s virtually impossible to predict a short-term bottom in stock prices has been reached, but over the long-run, stock investors have been handsomely rewarded for not panicking and staying invested (see chart below).

Source: Marketsmith

At the end of the day, the daily headlines will continually attempt to sell the negative story that the world is coming to an end. If you have the fortitude and discipline to ignore the irrelevant noise, the status quo of normal volatility can create more exciting opportunities and better returns for long-term investors.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (March 1, 2022). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

March 1, 2022 at 4:52 pm 2 comments

From Rocket Ship to Roller Coaster

The stock market has been like a rocket ship over the last three years 2019/2020/2021, advancing +90% as measured by the S&P 500 index, and +136% for the NASDAQ. After this meteoric multi-year rise, stock values started to come back to earth in 2022, and the rocket ship turned into a roller coaster during January. More specifically, the S&P 500 fell -5% for the month and the NASDAQ -9%. Yes, it’s true volatility has increased, and your blood pressure may have risen with all the ups and downs. However, the fact remains the economy remains strong, corporate profits are at record levels, unemployment is low, and interest rates remain at attractive levels despite nagging inflation (see chart below) and the removal of accommodative monetary policies by the Federal Reserve.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Math Matters

I did okay in school and was educated on many different topics, including the basic principle that math matters. This notion rings especially true when it comes to finance and investing. As I have discussed numerous times in the past, money goes where it is treated best, which is why interest rates, cash flows, and valuations play such a key role in ultimately determining long-term values across all asset classes. This concept of money seeking the best home applies equally to stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities, crypto-currencies, and any other asset class you can imagine because interest rates help determine the cost of holding and using money.

Normally, mathematics teaches us the lesson that more is better when discussing financial matters. And currently the stock market is compensating investors significantly more for investing in stocks relative to investing in bonds – I have reviewed this concept repeatedly on my Investing Caffeine blog (see Going Shopping: Chicken vs. Beef ). Currently, investors are getting paid about +5% to hold stocks based on the forward earnings yield (i.e., the inverse of the stock market’s Price-Earnings ratio of 20x) vs. the +2% yield on the 10-Year Treasury Note (1.78% more precisely on 1/31/22). What’s more, historically speaking, stock investors typically get rewarded with an earnings yield that doubles about every 10 years, whereas bond yields usually remain stagnantly flat, if bonds are held until maturity.

With that said, I am always quick to point out that diversification in a portfolio is important (i.e., most people should at least own some bonds), even if bonds are currently very expensive relative to other asset classes (see Sleeping on Expensive Financial Pillows). If bond yields climb significantly to the point where returns are more competitive with stocks, I will likely be buying significantly more bonds for me and my Sidoxia (www.sidoxia.com) clients.

Fed Jitters

The recent stock market volatility is reinforcing the idea that the Federal Reserve’s more aggressive stance regarding hiking interest rates is making many investors very anxious – just not me. I have lived through many tightening cycles in my lifetime and lived to tell the tale. It is true that all else equal, higher interest rates generally depress asset values, but it is also important to place the current interest rate environment in historical context. Although the Federal Funds interest rate target is expected to increase to 2.5% over the next few years (currently at 0%), this forecast is nothing new and there is no guarantee the Fed can successfully pull off this feat. Many people have short memories and forget the Fed hiked interest rates 10 times from the end of 2015 through 2018. In the face of this scary period, the stock market (S&P 500) still managed to approximately climb a respectable +22% (albeit with some volatility). Furthermore, if you give the Fed the benefit of the doubt of achieving this uncertain target, this 2.5% level is very appealing and still extremely low, historically speaking (see chart below).

Source: Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED)

When discussing interest rates and inflation, investors should also expand their views globally to the other 95% of the world’s population. Many investors are very myopic in their focus on U.S. interest rates. It is important to understand that rates are not just low here in the United States, but also low almost everywhere else as well. While international interest rates have bounced marginally higher in recent months, those countries’ long-term international rates, by and large, remain tremendously low too – in most cases even lower than rates in the U.S. (see chart below). Yes, the Fed has some control over short-term interest rates in the U.S., but considering other crucial forces that are depressing long-term global rates is worth pondering. Factors such as globalization and the pervading expansion of deflationary technology into our personal and work lives are contributing to disinflation. Valuable conclusions can be synthesized beyond digesting the pessimistic and nauseating analysis of Jerome Powell’s Congressional testimony, along with the needless wordsmithing of recent Fed minutes.

Source: Edward Yardeni

In order to earn above-average, financial returns in your portfolio over the long-run, experiencing unsettling volatility and corrections is the price of doing business. Flying on rocket ships might be fun, but sometimes the rocket can run out of gas, and you are forced to jump on a roller coaster. The ups-and-downs can be frustrating at times, but if you stay on for the full ride, you will almost always end with a smile on your face when it’s over.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (February 1, 2022). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in PFE and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

February 1, 2022 at 4:07 pm 2 comments

Cash Is Trash

The S&P 500 stock market index took a breather and ended its six-month winning streak, declining -4.8% for the month. Even after this brief pause, the S&P has registered a very respectable +14.7% gain for 2021, excluding dividends. Nevertheless, even though the major stock market indexes are roaming near all-time record highs, FUD remains rampant (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt).

As the 10-Year Treasury Note yield has moved up to a still-paltry 1.5% level this month, the talking heads and peanut gallery bloggers are still fretting over the feared Federal Reserve looming “tapering”. More specifically, Jerome Powell, the Fed Chairman and the remainder of those on the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) are quickly approaching the decision to reduce monthly bond purchases (i.e., “tapering”). The so-called, quantitative easing (QE) program is currently running at about $120 billion per month, which was established with the aim to lower interest rates and stimulate the economy.  Now that the COVID recovery is well on its way, the Fed is effectively trying to decrease the size of the current, unruly punch-keg down to the volume of a more manageable punch bowl.

Stated differently, even when the arguably overly-stimulative current bond buying slows or stops, the Federal Funds Rate is still effectively set at 0% today, a level that still offers plenty of accommodative fuel to our economy. Although interest rates will not stay at 0% forever, many people forget that between 2008 and 2015, the Fed Funds Rate stubbornly stayed sticky at 0% (i.e., a full punch bowl) for seven years, even without any spike in inflation.

Because the economy continues to improve, current consensus projections by economists show the first interest rate increase of this cycle (i.e., “liftoff”) to occur sometime in 2022 and subsequently climb to a still extraordinarily low level of 2.0% by 2024 (see “Dot Plot” below). For reference, the projected 2.0% figure would still be significantly below the 6.5% Fed Funds Rate we saw in the year 2000, the 5.3% in 2007, or the 2.4% in 2019. If history is any guide, under almost any scenario, Chairman Powell is very much a dove and is likely to tap the interest rate hike brakes very gently.

Source: Seeking Alpha

Low But Not the Lowest

In a world of generationally low interest rates, what I describe as our low bond yields here in the United States are actually relatively high, if you consider rates in other major industrialized economies and the trillions of negative-interest-rate bonds littered all over the rest of the world (see August’s article, $16.5 Trillion in Negative-Yielding Debt). Although our benchmark government rates are hovering around 1.5%, as you can see from the chart below, Germany is sitting considerably lower at -0.2%, Japan at 0.1%, France at 0.2%, and the United Kingdom at 1.0%.

Source: Yardeni Research & Haver Analytics

Taper Schmaper

As with many government related policies, the Federal Reserve often gets too much credit for successes and too much blame for failures, as it relates to our economy. I have illustrated the extent of how globally interconnected our world of interest rates is, and one taper announcement is unlikely to reverse a four-decade disinflationary declining trend in interest rates.

Back in 2013, after of five years of quantitative easing (QE) that began in 2008, investors were terrified that interest rates were artificially being depressed by a money-printing Fed that had gone hog-wild in bond buying. At that time, pundits feared an imminent explosion higher in interest rates once the Fed began tapering. So, what happened after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke broached the subject of tapering on June 19, 2013? The opposite occurred. Although 10-Year yields jumped 0.1% to 2.3% on the day of the announcement, interest rates spent the majority of the next six years declining to 1.6% in 2019, pre-COVID. As COVID began to spread globally, rates declined further to 0.95% in March of 2020, the day before Jerome Powell announced a fresh new round of quantitative easing (see chart below).

Source: Trading Economics (annotations by Sidoxia Capital Management)

Obviously, every economic period is different from previous ones, and fearing to fall off the floor to lower interest rate levels is likely misplaced at such minimal current rates (1.5%). However, panicking over potential exploding interest rates, as in 2013 (which did not happen), again may not be the most rational behavior either.

What to Do?

If interest rates are low, and inflation is high (see chart below), then what should you do with your money? Currently, if your money is sitting in cash, it is losing 4-5% in purchasing power due to inflation. If your money is sitting in the bank earning minimal interest, you are not going to be doing much better than that. Everybody’s time horizon and risk tolerance is different, but regardless of your age or anxiety level, you need to efficiently invest your money in a diversified portfolio to counter the insidious, degrading effects of inflation and generationally low interest rates. The “do-nothing” strategy will only turn your cash into trash, while eroding the value of your savings and retirement assets.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (October 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

October 1, 2021 at 1:34 pm 4 comments

A Better Mousetrap

How do you earn better investment returns for your retirement? The short answer: You must find a better mousetrap.

In the current economic environment, finding a better mousetrap to prevent infestations inside your investment portfolio can be a challenge. Concerns over the COVID delta variant, rising inflation, Federal Reserve policy (i.e., “tapering”), and geopolitical tensions (Afghanistan) remain looming in the background. However, the economy continues to expand at a healthy pace (+6.6% Q2 – Gross Domestic Product growth has soared to record heights (see charts below).

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

The rising economic tide has lifted various stock market indices to new record highs. For the month, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average powered ahead +2.9% and +1.2%, respectively. For the year, these hot results are even more singeing – the S&P 500 has surged +20.4% and the Dow +15.5%.

All good things eventually come to an end, so protecting your financial home against damaging economic rodents is paramount. How you will defend your savings against an inevitable correction and insidious inflation is essential.

Investing with a better mousetrap will allow you to catch better returns, accelerate your retirement, and help avoid the infestation of inflation eating away at your nest egg. If you turn on any financial channel or click on an investment advertisement, chances are someone will attempt to sell you some overpriced, whiz-bang strategy or investment mousetrap that claims to capture amazing, quick results. More often than not, those assertions are complete lies. As Granny Slome always used to tell me, “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Mousetrap Characteristics

What should you be looking for in your investing mousetrap? Here are five characteristics to build upon:

1) Have a long-term time horizon. There is no reliable get-rich-quick scheme that will consistently make you money. Whereas, investing over the long-term in a diversified portfolio generally affords you the luxury of “compounding”, the phenomenon that Einstein called the “eighth wonder of the world.” Chasing the meme stock du jour, crypto currency flavor of the month, and/or the daily day-trading strategy parroted on TV will only lead to a pool of financial tears.

2) Invest in low-cost investment vehicles and strategies. The less you pay in fees, taxes, and transaction costs means the more you can keep for yourself. Investing in low-fee ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), liquid low-spread securities, and $0 commission trading platforms, along with maintaining long-term holdings to minimize taxes, are all approaches to keeping more money for your growing retirement nest egg.

3) Obtain a customizable strategy to fit your risk tolerance and financial situation. Everyone has a unique financial profile and risk appetite. What’s more, everybody’s situation does not remain static. Circumstances change and life has a way of throwing curveballs at you. Finding a competent investment professional, who is also a fiduciary, is easier said than done, but if you are able to work with an advisor like Sidoxia Capital Management (www.Sidoxia.com), this will afford you the benefit of making prudent adjustments to your situation as it changes.

4) Find an understandable and transparent investment strategy. If your advisor or investment manager cannot explain the strategy and outline the specific costs/fees, then you should look elsewhere. Understanding the objective and strategy of your investments is critical, otherwise volatility can lead to emotional, sub-optimal decision-making. Hidden costs compromise the integrity of the investment advisor, so do not associate yourself with these sketchy people.

5) Rely on proven results. Past results do not guarantee future returns, however, aligning your investment strategy with time-tested results can provide you peace of mind. At the end of the day, your investments need to perform, and having an experienced investment manager is a valuable asset for you.

There is never a shortage of concerns in the financial markets, in both good and bad times. Rather than lose sleep and nervously chew down your fingernails, relax and spend your time finding a better mousetrap.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (September 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

September 1, 2021 at 6:41 pm 1 comment

Return to Rationality?

As the worst pandemic in more than a generation is winding down in the U.S., people are readjusting their personal lives and investing worlds as they transition from ridiculousness to rationality. After many months of non-stop lockdowns, social distancing, hand-sanitizers, mask-wearing, and vaccines, Americans feel like caged tigers ready to roam back into the wild. An incredible amount of pent-up demand is just now being unleashed not only by consumers, but also by businesses and the economy overall. This reality was also felt in the stock market as the Dow Jones Industrial Average powered ahead another 654 points last month (+1.9%) to a new record level (34,529) and the S&P 500 also closed at a new monthly high (+0.6% to 4,204). For the year, the bull market remains intact with the Dow gaining almost 4,000 points (+12.8%), while the S&P 500 has also registered a respectable +11.9% return.

Source: Investors.com

The story was different last year. The economy and stock market temporarily fell off a cliff and came to a grinding halt in the first quarter of 2020. However, with broad distribution of the vaccines and antibodies gained by the previously infected, herd immunity has effectively been reached. As a result, the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic has essentially come to an end for now and stock prices have continued their upward surge since last March.

Insanity to Sanity?

With the help of the Federal Reserve keeping interest rates at near-0% levels, coupled with trillions of dollars in stimulus and proposed infrastructure spending, corporate profits have been racing ahead. All this free money has pushed speculation into areas such as cryptocurrencies (i.e., Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum), SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), Reddit meme stocks (GameStop Corp, AMC Entertainment), and highly valued, money-losing companies (e.g., Spotify, Uber, Snowflake, Palantir Technologies, Lyft, Peloton, and others). The good news, at least in the short-term, is that some of these areas of insanity have gone from stratospheric levels to just nosebleed heights. Take for example, Cathie Wood’s ARK Innovation Fund (ARKK) that invests in pricey stocks averaging a 91x price-earnings ratio, which exceeds 4x’s the valuation of the average S&P 500 stock. The ARK exchange traded fund that touts investments in buzzword technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cryptocurrencies rocketed +149% last year in the middle of a pandemic, but is down -10.0% this year. The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust fund (GBTC) that skyrocketed +291% in 2020 has fallen -5.6% in 2021 and -48.1% from its peak. What’s more, after climbing by more than +50% in less than four months, the Defiance NextGen SPAC fund (SPAK) has declined by -28.9% from its apex just a few months ago in February. You can see the dramatic 2021 underperformance in these areas in the chart below.

Source: Marketsmith

Inflation Rearing its Ugly Head?

The economic resurgence, weaker value of the U.S. dollar, and rising stock prices have pushed up inflation in commodities such as corn, gasoline, lumber, automobiles, housing, and a whole host of other goods (see chart below). Whether this phenomenon is “transitory” in nature, as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell likes to describe this trend, or if this is the beginning of a longer phase of continued rising prices, the answer will be determined in the coming months. It’s clear the Federal Reserve has its hands full as it attempts to keep a lid on inflation and interest rates. The Fed’s success, or lack thereof, will have significant ramifications for all financial markets, and also have meaningful consequences for retirees looking to survive on fixed income budgets.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

As we have worked our way through this pandemic, all Americans and investors look to change their routines from an environment of irrationality to rationality, and insanity to sanity. Although the bull market remains alive and well in the stock market, inflation, interest rates, and speculative areas like cryptocurrencies, SPACs, meme-stocks, and nosebleed-priced stocks remain areas of caution. Stick to a disciplined and diversified investment approach that incorporates valuation into the process or contact an experienced advisor like Sidoxia Capital Management to assist you through these volatile times.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (June 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in GME, AMC, SPOT, UBER, SNOW, PLTR, LYFT, PTON, GBTC, SPAK, ARKK or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

June 1, 2021 at 3:30 pm 4 comments

Consumer Confidence Flies as Stock Market Hits New Highs

As the economy starts reopening from a global pandemic that is improving, consumers and businesses are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The surge in the recently reported Consumer Confidence figures to a new one-year high (see chart below) is evidence the recovery is well on its way. A stock market reaching new record highs is further evidence of the reopening recovery. More specifically, the Dow Jones Industrial Average catapulted 2,094 points higher (+6.2%) for the month to 32,981 and the S&P 500 index soared +4.2%. A rise in interest rate yields on the 10-Year Treasury Note to 1.7% from 1.4% last month placed pressure on technology growth stocks, which led to a more modest gain of +0.4% in the tech-heavy NASDAQ index during March.

Source: MarketWatch

Comeback from COVID

With a combination of 150 million vaccine doses administered and 30 million cumulative COVID cases, the U.S. population has creeped closer toward herd immunity protection against the virus and pushed down hospitalizations dramatically (see chart below).

Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Also contributing to investor optimism have been the rising values of investments and real estate assets thanks to an improving economy and COVID case count. As you can see from the chart below, the net worth of American households has more than doubled from the 2008-2009 financial crisis to approximately $130 trillion dollars, which in turn has allowed consumers to responsibly control and manage their personal debt. Unfortunately, the U.S. government hasn’t been as successful in keeping debt levels in check.

Source: Calafia Beach Pundit

Spending and Paying for Infrastructure Growth

Besides focusing on positive COVID trends, investors have also centered their attention on the passage of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill last month and a new proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill that President Biden unveiled details on yesterday. At the heart of the multi-trillion dollar spending are the following components (see also graphic below):

  • $621 billion modernize transportation infrastructure
  • $400 billion to assist the aging and disabled
  • $300 billion to boost the manufacturing industry
  • $213 billion to build and retrofit affordable housing
  • $100 billion to expand broadband access
Source: The Wall Street Journal

With over $28 trillion in government debt, how will all this spending be funded? According to The Fiscal Times, there are four main tax categories to help in the funding:

Corporate Taxes: Raising the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% is expected to raise $730 billion over 10 years

Foreign Corporate Subsidiary Tax: A new global minimum tax on foreign subsidiaries of American corporations is estimated to raise $550 billion

Capital Gains Tax on Wealthy: Increasing income tax rates on capital gains for wealthy individuals is forecasted to raise $370 billion

Income Tax on Wealthy: Lifting the top individual tax rate back to 39.6% for households earning more than $400,000 per year is seen to bring in $110 billion

Besides the economy being supported by government spending, growth and appreciation in the housing market are contributing to GDP growth. The recently released housing data shows housing prices accelerating significantly above the peak levels last seen before the last financial crisis (see chart below).

Source: Calculated Risk

Although the economy appears to be on solid footing and stock prices have marched higher to new record levels, there are still plenty of potential factors that could derail the current bull market advance. For starters, increased debt and deficit spending could lead to rising inflation and higher interest rates, which could potentially choke off economic growth. Bad things can always happen when large financial institutions take on too much leverage (i.e., debt) and speculate too much (see also Long-Term Capital Management: When Genius Failed). The lesson from the latest, crazy blow-up (Archegos Capital Management) reminds us of how individual financial companies can cause billions in losses and cause ripple-through effects to the whole financial system. And if that’s not enough to worry about, you have rampant speculation in SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), Reddit meme stocks (e.g., GameStop Corp. – GME), cryptocurrencies, and NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens).

Successful investing requires a mixture of art and science – not everything is clear and you can always find reasons to be concerned. At Sidoxia Capital Management, we continue to find attractive opportunities as we strive to navigate through areas of excess speculation. At the end of the day, we remain disciplined in following our fundamental strategy and process that integrates the four key legs of our financial stool: corporate profits, interest rates, valuations, and sentiment (see also Don’t Be a Fool, Follow the Stool). As long as the balance of these factors still signal strength, we will remain confident in our outlook just like consumers and investors are currently.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (April 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in GME or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

April 1, 2021 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

Investors Ponder Stimulus Size as Rates Rise

Stock prices rose again last month in part based on passage optimism of a government stimulus package (currently proposed at $1.9 trillion). But the rise happened before stock prices took a breather during the last couple of weeks, especially in hot growth sectors like the technology-heavy QQQ exchange traded fund, which fell modestly by -0.1% in February. As some blistering areas cooled off, investors decided to shift more dollars into the value segment of the stock market (e.g., the Russell 1000 Value index soared +6% last month). Over the same period, the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average indexes climbed +2.6% and +3.2%, respectively.

What was the trigger for the late-month sell-off? Many so-called pundits point to a short-term rise in interest rates. While investor anxiety heightened significantly at the end of the month, the S&P 500 dropped a mere -3.5% from all-time record highs after a slingshot jump of +73.9% from the March 2020 lows.

Do Rising Interest Rates = Stock Price Declines?

Conventional wisdom dictates that as interest rates rise, stock prices must fall because higher rates are expected to pump the breaks on economic activity and higher yielding fixed income investments will serve as better alternatives to investing in stocks. Untrue. There are periods of time when stock prices move higher even though interest rates also move higher
Take 2013 for example – the yield on the benchmark 10-Year Treasury Note climbed from +1.8% to 3.0%, while the S&P 500 index catapulted +29.6% higher (see charts below).

Similarly to now, during 1994 we were still in a multi-decade, down-trending interest rate environment. However, from the beginning of 1994 to the middle of 1995 the Federal Reserve hiked the Federal Funds interest rate target from 3% to 6% (and the 10-Year Treasury yield temporarily climbed from about 6% to 8%), yet stock prices still managed to ascend +17% over that 18-month period. The point being, although rising interest rates are generally bad for asset price appreciation, there are periods of time when stock prices can move higher in synchronization with interest rates.

What’s the Fuss about Stimulus?

One of the factors keeping the stock market afloat near record highs is the prospect of the federal government passing a COVID stimulus package to keep the economic recovery continuing. Even though there is a new administration in the White House, Democrats hold a very narrow majority of seats in Congress, leaving a razor thin margin to pass legislation. This means President Biden needs to keep moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin in check, and/or recruit some Republicans to jump on board to pass his $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus plan. If the bill is passed as proposed, “The relief plan would enhance and extend jobless benefits, provide $350 billion to state and local governments, send $1,400 to many Americans and fund vaccine distribution, among other measures,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Valuable Vaccines 

Fresh off the press, we just received additional good news on the COVID vaccine front. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the third vaccine for COVID-19 by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ). This J&J treatment is also the first single-dose vaccine to be distributed, unlike the other two vaccines manufactured by Pfizer Inc. (PFE) and Moderna Inc. (MRNA), which both require two shots. Johnson & Johnson expects to ship four million doses immediately and 20 million doses by the end of March.

So far, over 50 million doses of the COVID vaccines have been administered, and the White House believes they can go from currently about 1.5 million injections per day to approximately 4 million people per day by the end of March. The combination of the vaccines, mitigation behavior, and a slow march towards herd immunity have resulted in encouraging COVID trends, as you can see from the chart below. However, the bad news is new COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths still remain above peak levels experienced last spring and summer.

Revived Recovery

Thanks to the improving COVID trends, a continued economic recovery driven by reopenings, along with fiscal and monetary stimulus, business profits and revenues have effectively recovered all of the 2020 pandemic losses within a year (see chart below).

Source: Dr. Ed’s Blog

But with elevated stock prices have come elevated speculation, which we have seen bubble up in various forms. With the rising tide of new investors flooding onto new trading platforms like Robinhood, millions of individuals are placing speculative bets in areas like Bitcoin; new SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies); overpriced, money-losing cloud software companies; and social media recommended stocks found on Reddit’s WallStreetBets like GameStop (GME), which was up +150% alone last week. At Sidoxia Capital Management, we don’t spend a lot of time chasing the latest fad or stock market darling. Nevertheless, as long-term investors, we continue to find attractively valued investment opportunities that align with our clients’ objectives and constraints.

Overall, the outlook for the end of this pandemic looks promising as multiple COVID vaccines get administered, and the economic recovery gains steam with the help of reopenings and stimulus. If rising interest rates and potential inflation accelerate, these factors could slow the pace of the recovery and limit future stock market returns. However, if you follow a systematic, disciplined, long-term investment plan, like we implement at Sidoxia, you will be in a great position to prosper financially over the long-run.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (March 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in MRNA, PFE, and certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in GME, JNJ, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

March 1, 2021 at 12:20 pm 2 comments

Market Drops as GameStop Pops

The stock market started with a bang this year with the S&P 500 index at first climbing +3% in January before ending with a whimper and a monthly decline of -1%. This performance followed a strong finish to a wild 2020 presidential election year (the S&P 500 rose +16%). There has been plenty of focus on the coronavirus health crisis and vaccine distribution (100 million doses in 100 days), along with debates over a $1.9 trillion proposed relief package by newly elected President Joe Biden, but there has been another story stealing attention in the financial market headlines…GameStop.

If a global pandemic and a populist attack on the Capitol were not enough for investors, the Reddit (WallStreetBets) and Robinhood revolution coordinated a mass attack on privileged hedge funds and short sellers by squeezing out-of-favor stocks like GameStop (Ticker: GME) to stratospheric levels (up +1,625% to $325/share in January alone) causing an estimated $20 billion of losses for many wealthy elites. To put the meteoric rise into perspective, before GameStop shares reached $325, the stock was valued below $20/share last month and has climbed more than 100x-fold from a low $2.57/share nine months ago (see chart below).

Source: Investors.com (18-month chart)

What Exactly Happened?

Well, millions of users on the social media platform Reddit banded together on a forum called “wallstreetbets” (see graphic below). WallStreetBets was established in 2012 and had approximately 1 million subscribers at the beginning of 2021 – today it has more than 7 million subscribers. Millions of these anti-establishment WallStreetBets followers effectively colluded together to inflate the share price of GameStop by ganging up on the many short sellers who were betting that GameStop share price would drop. In other words, Reddit-Robinhood buyer gains led to short seller losses. One hedge fund in particular, Melvin Capital, lost billions of dollars on its GameStop short bet and saw its fund performance decline by a whopping -53% in one month…ouch!

The Reddit WallStreetBets forum may have served as the match in this wildfire, but in order to trigger an inferno, a brokerage account is needed. A trading platform allows individual traders on Reddit to level the playing field against the hedge fund professionals and short sellers. The fuel for the GameStop detonation was Robinhood, a fintech (Financial Technology) brokerage firm founded in Silicon Valley in 2013 by two Stanford University graduates. The mission of the company is to “democratize finance for all.” But let’s not forget what Thomas Jefferson noted, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.” The Reddit-Robinhood mob certainly proved this point.

Although Robinhood was initially seen as a saint in the free trading revolution, eventually many of the brokerage company’s disciples became disenfranchised. Many users subsequently turned on the company and considered Robinhood a villain that was rigging the system when CEO Vlad Tenev halted the ability of its 13+ million users to buy GameStop shares.

Many traders came to the conclusion that Robinhood was working to save the perceived hedge fund bad guys by the firm temporarily terminating user purchases in GameStop stock. Mr. Tenev blamed regulatory capital requirements as a reason for disallowing Robinhood-ers to buy GameStop last week, which was a major contributing factor to why the stock price plummeted by -44% on January 28th. The following day, Robinhood partially reversed its stance and subsequently allowed minimal daily purchases of one share.

How Does Short Selling Work?

In the stock market, you can make gains by buying shares that go up in price, or you can make profits by short selling shares that go down in price. If you buy a stock, the most money you could lose is -100% of your original investment. For example, if you invest $1,000 into GameStop stock by buying 50 shares at $20 each, if the stock price goes to $0, the most the investor/trader could lose is 100% of their $1,000 original investment.
On the flip side, if you short a stock, the potential losses are limitless. For example, if you (or a hedge fund manager) shorts $1,000 of GameStop stock by selling 50 shares short at $20 each, if the stock price goes to $60, the short seller just loss -200% of their original investment [($20/shr – $60/shr) X 50 shares] = -$2,000. If GameStop goes to $100, the short seller loses -400%, and if GameStop price goes to $220, the short seller loses -1,000%. As you can see, the higher the price goes, there are infinite potential losses of the investor, trader, or hedge fund manager. 

If a stock price continues to move higher, the only way for a short seller to stop the bleeding (i.e., close their short position or “bet”) is to buy shares. As a reminder, a buyer of stock closes their position by selling shares after they originally buy shares. A short seller closes their position by buying shares after they initially sell shares short. So again, if GameStop share price continues to move higher, the only way for GameStop short sellers to stop their losses is to buy more GameStop shares. This is the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a blazing fire because as millions of Reddit/Robinhood-ers are pushing GameStop’s share price higher almost every day, short selling hedge fund managers are left scrambling for the exits and forced to close their positions at even higher prices (i.e., larger losses).

What Does This All Mean?

Whether you are talking about speculation in Bitcoin, the rise of SPACs (Special Purpose Acquisition Companies), the increase in the number of IPOs (Initial Public Offerings), or the Reddit-Robinhood Revolution, risk appetite has been on the rise and long-term investors should proceed very cautiously. Just as many have experienced on trips to Las Vegas, big winnings can quickly turn to huge losses. Although it’s certainly fun to watch the individual Davids take down the hedge fund/short selling Goliaths, if the Reddit-Robinhood community gets too aggressive in its speculation, history shows us they will end up being the ones swimming in their tears or stoned to death.

If you need assistance navigating through all these land mines, please give us a call at Sidoxia Capital Management (949-258-4322) for a complimentary portfolio review.

www.Sidoxia.com

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®

Plan. Invest. Prosper.

This article is an excerpt from a previously released Sidoxia Capital Management complimentary newsletter (February 1, 2021). Subscribe on the right side of the page for the complete text.

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients hold positions in certain exchange traded funds (ETFs), but at the time of publishing had no direct position in GME, AMC, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC Contact page.

February 1, 2021 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

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